I want to share a powerful “God sighting” I experienced this past week.
There is a member of our church whose heart had deteriorated over the years; doctors placed him on the transplant list a couple of years ago. We’ll call him “Tom.”
In the spring of 2015, he had a serious heart incident and was rushed to St. Vincent Hospital.
Doctors put him higher on the transplant list and said he would remain in the hospital until a heart became available. Weeks turned into months. Complications arose, such as infections and kidney failure. He went on dialysis and waited seven months for a heart, and, also, a kidney.
I and others had visited him every week; many healing prayers were offered for the various complications. The big prayer request, however — for a heart to become available — remained beyond reach. (I’ve learned a lot about how much must fall into place for a good donor/recipient match.)
By December, doctors felt they could no longer keep him in the hospital. Besides, Tom was homesick and just wanted to be with his wife, “Jenny,” and their disabled son.
Church members built a ramp so Jenny could get Tom’s wheelchair into the house. Since no heart was available, doctors put a pump in Tom’s body called a VAD (ventricular assisted device). A thick electrical cord comes out of the body and hooks to a large battery pack worn around the waist. It is uncomfortable but considered a temporary solution.
Tom was at least enjoying being at home after seven months in the hospital. Then on Valentine’s Day, he went into ventricular fibrillation, and his internal defibrillator began shocking him over and over. He was rushed back to St. Vincent and stabilized, but now doctors wanted him to stay again and wait for a heart. For two more months I continued to visit and pray, but honestly, both of us were getting very discouraged.
Now Tom was a very active church member, but his wife rarely attended worship, for whatever reason. She was, however, very appreciative of my visits and prayers with Tom.
Last weekend Jenny called me and said she saw a Facebook post by Victoria Osteen about the power of prayer. “God spoke to me and told me to call you — that we need to do some kind of concentrated prayer event,” she said.
My immediate thought was, “I’ve been praying my heart out for a year, as have many of our church members. What more can I do?” Then I thought, “If God is speaking to her through a Facebook post, I’ll figure something out.”
Jenny’s niece’s church directed its Wednesday night prayer group to focus on Tom. I suggested bringing church members to Tom’s room on Wednesday to pray with him and Jenny.
I felt some anxiety. I didn’t want them to feel even more discouraged if our prayer results were the same as before. In fact, I planned a prayer service with Scriptures that dealt mainly with disappointment when God seems absent.
We asked the hospital staff to allow no one in the room for 45 minutes — no blood pressure checks, not even doctors. I played meditative music. Prayer warrior members of the church prayed aloud, Tom read Scripture and we had long moments of silence to listen for God’s presence. We all cried. It was a beautiful experience.
We went home exhausted but feeling good. I was awakened at 4 a.m. by my cellphone. When a pastor gets a call at that time, it is always bad news. It was Jenny; my heart sank. When I answered I heard a shaky voice say, “Pastor, you’re not going to believe this, but the hospital just called and said they have a heart and kidney available for Tom. Can you come now to the hospital?”
My body was shaking; I could hardly dress. The transplant went perfectly, and Tom is recovering.
I’m still a little shaky over the dramatic way God intervened that day. It was a powerful witness to many. I’m still reflecting on all God was saying and to whom, but I thought I’d share it so you can do likewise.
Larry Gember is pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.